ESPN Films

ESPN Films producer directs 30 for 30 on former NFL star Randy Moss

Former college and NFL star Randy Moss is the subject of Rand University, the 30 for 30 film premiering tonight on ESPN. (ESPN Films)
Former college and NFL star Randy Moss is the subject of Rand University, the 30 for 30 film premiering tonight on ESPN. (ESPN Films)
Actor Michael Kenneth Williams – Omar from “The Wire” – narrates Rand University

How did ESPN Films recruit actor Michael Kenneth Williams – noted for his powerful roles in acclaimed HBO series “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” – for the Rand University project?

“While trying to decide the voice to narrate this film, the one person I had in mind was Michael Kenneth Williams,” Rand director Marquis Daisy said. “His characters on “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” felt like the authentic voice to tell the story of Moss’ troubled past. [Williams] speaks with a certain level of pain and emotion that you cannot coach.

“He showed up to the voice-over session and wanted to perfect everything, often re-reading his lines multiple times. Upon his arrival that day, Michael looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I feel like this is my own story’. So it wasn’t a surprise that he became choked up during his reads and needed to take a short break, as his emotions caught up with him.”

The thrills and excitement Randy Moss brought to high school, college and NFL playing fields are well-documented. But how did the time Moss spent during his youth in Rand, W.Va., influence his life and career?

Today’s new 30 for 30 film Rand University (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), directed by ESPN Films producer Marquis Daisy, executive produced by ESPN commentator Bomani Jones and narrated by actor Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Wire”), explores Moss’ life. It tells the story of what almost derailed Moss before he ever became nationally known for his extraordinary abilities as a wide receiver.

ESPN NFL analyst Cris Carter, the Hall of Famer who was a mentor for Moss when they were Minnesota Vikings teammates, and ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz – who as Notre Dame’s head coach recruited Moss – are among the many interviews featured in the film.

Front Row asked Daisy, who joined ESPN Films full-time earlier this year, for additional insight about this project.

As a key member of the ESPN Films team, what led you to want to direct this particular documentary?
Moss’ story has always interested me because of its complexity – there are elements of pain, struggle, perseverance and sometimes, redemption. Because his troubles had almost derailed his entire career and jeopardized his future in so many ways, I became enamored with the possibility of telling the story of his early years and giving viewers a rare look into the mind of the often enigmatic Moss. Finally, while the film is centered on Moss’ life, there is a broader story being told, which breaks down why people from Rand, W. Va., rarely make it out.

What was it like working with ESPN colleague Bomani Jones – co-host of Highly Questionable – who served as executive producer?
Working with Bomani as the EP on this film has been invaluable. Prior to this film’s inception, Bomani had studied the life and career of Moss, becoming a “Moss encyclopedia.” With his great intellect, we challenged one another creatively. His insight really helped Rand University improve throughout the process. Bomani is extremely talented and I was blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him.

Director Marquis Daisy talks about Randy Moss’ turbulent path to the NFL in this “Director’s Statement” video below.

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